Tomorrow over 200 religious leaders from across our state will join educators, local and state officials at the Oregon Interfaith Summit on homeless Children, Youth and Families to talk about the growing crisis of children entering our public schools while homeless. Over 18,000 such students attended Oregon schools during the '08-'09 school year. Numbers are not yet available for this school year but they are expected to be higher based on available data. The summit will be held at Salem's First United Methodist Church, 600 State Street, from 8:30am-4:30pm.
As a member of the public policy committee for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, I brought the idea of this summit to our state's religious leaders to address how the faith community might partner with local schools and how a common public policy agenda might be developed to advocate for additional resources. Tragically, we expect less money to serve these students as stimulus dollars from the federal government expire and as Oregon's budget crisis worsens.Among the key speakers will be:
Barbara Duffield, policy director, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth; Claas Ehlers, national director, Interfaith Hospitality Networks at 2 the organization Family Promise; Heather Lyons, senior program manager, Corporation for Supportive Housing; Jean Lasater, Homeless and Runaway Youth Initiative coordinator, at the Oregon Commission on Children and Families; Galen Phipps, director, Oregon Network for Youth; the Rev. Paul Schroeder, faith-based service coordinator, JOIN; Rick Crager, deputy director, Oregon Housing and Community Services; Bill Hall, commissioner, Lincoln County; and a host of religious leaders representing a variety of religious traditions.I'm looking forward to delivering a short homily during the summit's opening worship service at 9 am that offers participants a hopeful view based on commonly held theological beliefs that together we can provide educational opportunities for children who are homeless so they have every opportunity to succeed in life and working together we can even end homelessness within a generation.
This will be the largest and most diverse gathering of religious leaders to ever meet in Oregon to discuss homelessness.